Not long ago, at a leading global law firm’s partner conference, professor Laura Empson faced a question. The author of “Leading Professionals: Power, Politics, and Prima Donnas” was on hand to share her expertise on structure and strategy in professional service firms. One of the partners in the room wanted to know if she’d ever dealt with a law firm that was wrestling with a particular matter.

“No,” responded Empson, who teaches at Cass Business School in London and is a senior research fellow at Harvard Law School, “but I worked with a Big Four firm, and this is how they dealt with the issue.”